« السابقةمتابعة »
stopped! We reckon Johnson's "talent of silence" to be among his great and too rare gifts. Where there is nothing farther to be done, there shall nothing farther be said: like his own poor blind Welshwoman, he accomplished somewhat, and also "endured fifty years of wretchedness with unshaken fortitude." How grim was Life to him; a sick Prison-house and Doubting-castle! "His great business," he would profess, "was to escape from himself." Yet towards all this he has taken his position and resolution; can dismiss it all "with frigid indifference, having little to hope or to fear." Friends are stupid and pusillanimous and parsimonious; "wearied of his stay, yet offended at his departure:" it is the manner of the world. "By popular delusion," remarks he with a gigantic calmness, "illiterate writers will rise into renown:" it is portion of the History of English Literature; a perennial thing, this same popular delusion; and will-alter the character of the Language.
Closely connected with this quality of Valour, partly as springing from it, partly as protected by it, are the more recognisable qualities of Truthfulness in word and thought, and Honesty in action. There is a reciprocity of influence here for as the realizing of Truthfulness and Honesty is the Life-light and great aim of Valour, so without Valour they cannot, in anywise, be realized. Now, in spite of all practical shortcomings, no one that sees into the significance of Johnson, will say that his prime object was not Truth. In conversation, doubtless, you may observe him, on occasion, fighting as if for victory;-and must pardon these ebulliences of a careless hour, which were not without temptation and provocation. Remark likewise two things; that such prizearguings were ever.on merely superficial debatable questions; and then that they were argued generally by the fair laws of battle, and logic-fence, by one cunning in that same. If their purpose was excusable, their effect was That Mercy can dwell only with Valour, is harmless, perhaps beneficial: that of taming an old sentiment or proposition; which, in noisy mediocrity, and showing it another side Johnson, again receives confirmation. Few of a debatable matter; to see both sides of men on record have had a more merciful, tenwhich was, for the first time, to see the Truth derly affectionate nature than old Samuel. He of it. In his Writings themselves, are errors was called the Bear; and did indeed too often enough, crabbed prepossessions enough, yet look, and roar, like one; being forced to it in these also of a quite extraneous and accidental | his own defence: yet within that shaggy exnature; nowhere a wilful shutting of the eyes terior of his, there beat a heart warm as a to the Truth. Nay, is there not everywhere mother's, soft as a little child's. Nay generala heartfelt discernment, singular, almost ad- ly, his very roaring was but the anger of mirable, if we consider through what confused affection: the rage of a Bear, if you will; but conflicting lights and hallucinations it had to of a Bear bereaved of her whelps. Touch his De attained, of the highest everlasting Truth, Religion, glance at the Church of England, or and beginning of all Truths: this, namely, that the Divine Right; and he was upon you! man is ever, and even in the age of Wilkes These things were his Symbols of all that was and Whitfield, a Revelation of God to man; good, and precious for men; his very Ark of and lives, moves, and has his being in Truth the Covenant: whoso laid hand on them tore only; is either true, or, in strict speech, is not asunder his heart of hearts Not out of hatred at all? to the opponent, but of love to the thing opposed, did Johnson grow cruel, fiercely contradictory: this is an important distinction; never to be forgotten in our censure of his conversational outrages. But observe also with what humanity, what openness of love, he can attach himself to all things: to a blind old woman, to a Doctor Levett, to a Cat "Hodge." "His thoughts in the latter part of his life were
Quite spotless, on the other hand, is Johnson's love of Truth, if we look at it as expressed in Practice, as what we have named Honesty of action. "Clear your mind of Cant;" clear it, throw Cant utterly away: such was his emphatic, repeated precept; and did not he himself faithfully conform to it? The Life of this man has been, as it were, turned inside
out, and examined with microscopes by friend and foe; yet was there no Lie found in him. His Doings and Writings are not shows but performances: you may weigh them in the balance, and they will stand weight. Not a line, not a sentence is dishonestly done, is other than it pretends to be. Alas! and he wrote not out of inward inspiration, but to earn his wages: and with that grand perennial tide of " popular delusion" flowing by; in whose waters he nevertheless refused to fish, to whose rich oyster-beds the dive was too muddy for him. Observe, again, with what innate hatred of Cant, he takes for himself, and offers to others the lowest possible view of his business, which he followed with such nobleness. Motive for writing he had none, as he often said, but money; and yet he wrote so. Into the region of Poetic Art he indeed never rose; there was no ideal without him avowing itself in his work: the nobler was that unavowed ideal which lay within him, and commanded, saying, Work out thy Artisanship in the spirit of an Artist! They who talk loudest about the dig nity of Art, and fancy that they too are Artistic guild-brethren, and of the Celestials,-let them consider well what manner of man this was, who felt himself to be only a hired day-labourer. A labourer that was worthy of his hire; that has laboured not as an eye-servant, but as one found faithful! Neither was Johnson in those days perhaps wholly a unique. Time was when, for money, you might have ware: and needed not, in all departments, in that of the Epic Poem, in that of the Blacking Bottle, to rest content with the mere persuasion that you had ware. It was a happier time. But as yet the seventh Apocalyptic Bladder (of PUFFERY) had not been rent open,-to whirl and grind, as in a West-Indian Tornado, all earthly trades and things into wreck, and dust, and consummation, and regeneration. Be it quickly, since it must be !
frequently employed on his deceased friends; he often muttered these or such-like sentences: "Poor man! and then he died." How he patiently converts his poor home into a Lazaretto; endures, for long years, the contradiction of the miserable and unreasonable; with him unconnected, save that they had no other to yield them refuge! Generous old man! Worldly possession he has little; yet of this he gives freely; from his own hard-earned shilling, the half-pence for the poor, that "waited his coming out," are not withheld: the poor "waited the coming out" of one not quite so poor! A Sterne can write sentimentalities on Dead Asses: Johnson has a rough voice; but he finds the wretched Daughter of Vice fallen down in the streets; carries her home, on his own shoulders, and like a good Madam, I beg your pardon for the abrupt Samaritan, gives help to the help-needing, ness of my departure in the morning, but I worthy or unworthy. Ought not Charity, even was compelled to do it by conscience. Fifty in that sense, to cover a multitude of Sins? years ago, Madam, on this day, I committed a No Penny-a-week Committee-Lady, no man- breach of filial piety. My father had been in ager of Soup-Kitchens, dancer at Charity Balls, the habit of attending Uttoxeter market, and was this rugged, stern-visaged man: but where, opening a stall there for the sale of his Books. in all England, could there have been found Confined by indisposition, he desired me, that another soul so full of Pity, a hand so heaven-day, to go and attend the stall in his place. like bounteous as his? The widow's mite, we My pride prevented me; I gave my father a know, was greater than all the other gifts. refusal.-And now to-day I have been at Uttoxeter; I went into the market, at the time of business, uncovered my head, and stood with it bare, for an hour, on the spot where my father's stall used to stand. In contrition I stood, and I hope the penance was expiatory." Who does not figure to himself this specta
Tears trickling down the granite rock: a soft sweil of Pity springs within! Still more tragical is this other scene: "Johnson mentioned that he could not in general accuse himself of having been an undutiful son. "Once indeed," said he, "I was disobedient: I refused to attend my father to Uttoxeter market. Pride was the source of that refusal, and the remembrance of it was painful. A few years ago I desired to atone for this fault." But by what method?-What method was now possible? Hear it; the words are again given as his own, though here evidently by a less capable reporter:
Perhaps it is this divine feeling of Affection, throughout manifested, that principally attracts us towards Johnson. A true brother of men is he; and filial lover of the Earth; who, with little bright spots of Attachment," where lives and works some loved one," has beautified "this rough solitary Earth into a peopled gar-cle, amid the " rainy weather, and the sneers," den." Litchfield, with its mostly dull and or wonder, "of the by-standers?" The melimited inhabitants, is to the last one of the mory of old Michael Johnson, rising from the sunny islets for him: Salve magna parens! Or far distance; sad-beckoning in the "moonlight read those Letters on his Mother's death: what of memory:" how he had toiled faithfully a genuine solemn grief and pity lies recorded hither and thither; patiently among the lowest there; a looking back into the Past, unspeak- of the low; been buffetted and beaten down, ably mournful, unspeakably tender. And yet yet ever risen again, ever tried it anew-And calm, sublime; for he must now act, not look: oh! when the wearied old man, as Bookseller, his venerated Mother has been taken from or Hawker, or Tinker, or whatsoever it was him; but he must now write a Rasselas to de- that Fate had reduced him to, begged help of fray her interment! Again in this little inci-thee for one day,-how savage, diabolic, was dent, recorded in his Book of Devotion, are not that mean Vanity, which answered, No! He the tones of sacred Sorrow and Greatness sleeps now; after life's fitful fever, he sleeps: deeper than in many a blank-verse Tragedy; but thou, O Merciless, how now wilt thou still as, indeed," the fifth act of a Tragedy" (though the sting of that remembrance?—The picture unrhymed) does "lie in every death-bed, were of Samuel Johnson standing bareheaded in the it a peasant's, and of straw:" market there, is one of the grandest and saddest we can paint. "Repentance! Repentance!" he proclaims, as with passionate sobs:—but only to the ear of Heaven, if Heaven will give him audience: the earthly ear, and heart, that should have heard it, are now closed, unresponsive for ever.
That this so keen-loving, soft-trembling Affectionateness, the inmost essence of his
"Sunday, October 18, 1767. Yesterday, at about ten in the morning, I took my leave for ever of my dear old friend, Catherine Chambers, who came to live with my mother about 1724, and has been but little parted from us since. She buried my father, my brother, and my mother. She is now fifty-eight years old. "I desired all to withdraw; then told her that we were to part for ever; that as Chris-being, must have looked forth, in one form or tians, we should part with prayer; and that another, through Johnson's whole character, I would, if she was willing, say a short prayer practical and intellectual, modifying both, is beside her. She expressed great desire to hear not to be doubted. Yet through what singulas me; and held up her poor hands as she lay in distortions and superstitions, moping melanbed, with great fervour, while I prayed kneel- cholies, blind habits, whims about "entering ing by her. with the right foot," and "touching every post as he walked along;" and all the other mad chaotic lumber of a brain that, with sun-clear intellect, hovered for ever on the verge of in sanity,-must that same inmost essence have
"I then kissed her. She told me that to part was the greatest pain she had ever felt, and that she hoped we should meet again in a better place. I expressed with swelled eyes, and
great emotion of tenderness, the same hopes. We kissed and parted; I humbly hope, to meet again, and to part no more."
looked forth; unrecognisable to all but the most observant! Accordingly it was not recognised; Johnson passed not for a fine nature, but for a dull, almost brutal one. Might not, for example, the first-fruit of such a Lovingness, coupled with his quick Insight, have been expected to be a peculiarly courteous demeanour as man among men? In Johnson's "Politeness," which he often, to the wonder of some, asserted to be great, there was indeed somewhat that needed explanation. Nevertheless, if he insisted always on handing lady-visitors to their carriage; though with the certainty of collecting a mob of gazers in Fleet Street, as might well be, the beau having on, by way of court dress," his rusty brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes for slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose:"-in all this we can see the spirit of true Politeness, only shining through a strange medium. Thus again, in his apartments, at one time, there were unfortunately no chairs. "A gentleman who frequently visited him whilst writing his Idlers, constantly found him at his desk, sitting on one with three legs; and on rising from it, he remarked that Johnson never forgot its defect; but would either hold it in his hand, or place it with great composure against some support; taking no notice of its imperfection to his visitor," who meanwhile, we suppose, sat upon folios, or in the sartorial fashion. "It was remarkable in Johnson," continues Miss Reynolds, ("Renny dear,") "that no external circumstances ever prompted him to make any apology, or to seem even sensible of their existence. Whether this was the effect of philosophic pride, or of some partial notion of his respecting high breeding, is doubt ful." That it was, for one thing, the effect of genuine Politeness, is nowise doubtful. Not of the Pharisaical Brummellian Politeness, which would suffer crucifixion rather than ask twice for soup: but the noble universal Politeness of a man, that knows the dignity of men, and feels his own; such as may be seen in the patriarchial bearing of an Indian Sachem; such as Johnson himself exhibited, when a sudden chance brought him into dialogue with his King. To us, with our view of the man, it nowise appears "strange" that he should have boasted himself cunning in the laws of Politeness: nor "stranger still," habitually attentive to practise them.
More legibly is this influence of the Loving heart to be traced in his intellectual character. What, indeed, is the beginning of intellect, the first inducement to the exercise thereof, but attraction towards somewhat, affection for it? Thus too, who ever saw, or will see, any true talent, not to speak of genius, the foundation of which is not goodness, love? From Johnson's strength of Affection, we deduce many of his intellectual peculiarities; especially that threatening array of perversions, known under the name of "Johnson's Prejudices." Looking well into the root from which these sprung, we have long ceased to view them with hostility, can pardon and reverently pity them. Conrider with what force early-imbibed opinions
must have clung to a soul of this Affection. Those evil-famed Prejudices of his, that Jacobitism, Church-of-Englandism, hatred of the Scotch, belief in Witches, and such like, what were they but the ordinary beliefs of well-doing, well-meaning provincial Englishmen in that day? First gathered by his Father's hearth; round the kind "country fires" of native Staffordshire; they grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength: they were hallowed by fondest sacred recollec tions: to part with them was parting with his heart's blood. If the man who has no strength of Affection, strength of Belief, have no strength of Prejudice, let him thank Heaven for it, but to himself take small thanks.
Melancholy it was, indeed, that the noble Johnson could not work himself loose from these adhesions; that he could only purify them, and wear them with some nobleness. Yet let us understand how they grew out from the very centre of his being: nay, moreover, how they came to cohere in him with what formed the business and worth of his Life, the sum of his whole Spiritual Endeavour. For it is on the same ground that he became throughout an Edifier and Repairer, not, as the others of his make were, a Puller-down; that in an age of universal Skepticism, England was still to produce its Believer. Mark too his candour even here; while a Dr. Adams, with placid surprise, asks, "Have we not evidence enough of the soul's immortality?" Johnson answers, "I wish for more." But the truth is, in Prejudice, as in all things, Johnson was the product of England; one of those good yeomen whose limbs were made in England: alas, the last of such Invincibles, their day being now done! His culture is wholly English; that not of a Thinker but of a "Scholar:" his interests are wholly English; he sees and knows nothing but England; he is the John Bull of Spiritual Europe: let him live, love him, as he was and could not but be! Pitiable it is, no doubt, that a Samuel Johnson must confute Hume's irreligious Philosophy by some “story from a Clergyman of the Bishopric of Durham;" should see nothing in the great Frederick but "Voltaire's lackey;" in Voltaire himself but a man acerrimi ingenii, paucarum l'erarum: in Rousseau but one worthy to be hanged; and in the universal, long-prepared, inevitable Tendency of European Thought but a greensick milkmaid's crotchet of (for variety's sake) "milking the Bull." Our good, dear John! Observe too what it is that he sees in the city of Paris: no feeblest glimpse of those D'Alemberts and Diderots, or of the strange questionable work they did: solely some Benedictine Priests, to talk kitchen-latin with them about Editiones Principes. "Monsheer Nongtongpaw!"
Our dear, foolish John; yet is there a lion's heart within him!-Pitiable all these things were, we say; yet nowise inexcusable; nay, as basis or as foil to much else that was in Johnson, almost venerable. Ought we not, indeed, to honour England, and English Institutions and Way of Life, that they could still equip such a man; could furnish him in heart and head to be a Samuel Johnson, and yet to love them, and unyieldingly fight for them? What
truth and living vigour must such Institutions once have had, when, in the middle of the Eighteenth century, there was still enough left in them for this!
deed, that they were earnest men, and had subdued their wild world into a kind of temporary home, and safe dwelling. Both were, by principle and habit, Stoics: yet Johnson with the greater merit, for he alone had very much to triumph over; farther, he alone ennobled his Stoicism into Devotion. To Johnson Life was as a Prison, to be endured with heroic faith: to Hume it was little more than a foolish Bartholomew-Fair Show-booth, with the foolish crowdings and elbowings of which it was not worth while to quarrel; the whole would break up, and be at liberty, so soon. Both realized the highest task of Manhood, that of living like men ; each died not unfitly, in his way: Hume as one, with factitious, half-false gayety, taking leave of what was itself wholly but a Lie: Johnson as one, with awe-struck, yet resolute and piously expectant heart, taking leave of a Reality, to enter a Reality still higher. Johnson had the harder problem of it, from first to last: whether, with some hesitation, we can admit that he was intrinsically the better-gifted, -may remain undecided.
It is worthy of note that, in our little British Isle, the two grand Antagonisms of Europe should have stood imbodied, under their very highest concentration, in two men produced simultaneously among ourselves. Samuel Johnson and David Hume, as was observed, were children of the same year: through life they were spectators of the same Life-movement; often inhabitants of the same city. Greater contrast, in all things, between two great men, could not be. Hume, well-born, competently provided for, whole in body and mind, of his own determination forces a way into Literature: Johnson, poor, moonstruck, diseased, forlorn, is forced into it "with the bayonet of necessity at his back." And what a part did they severally play there! As Johnson became the father of all succeeding Tories; so was Hume the father of all succeeding Whigs, for his own Jacobitism was but an accident, as worthy to be named Prejudice as These two men now rest; the one in Westany of Johnson's. Again, if Johnson's culture minster Abbey here; the other in the Calton was exclusively English; Hume's, in Scotland, Hill Churchyard of Edinburgh. Through Life became European;—for which reason too we they did not meet: as contrasts, “like in unfind his influence spread deeply over all quar-like," love each other; so might they two have ters of Europe, traceable deeply in all specula- loved, and communed kindly, had not the tion, French, German, as well as domestic; terrestrial dross and darkness, that was in while Johnson's name, out of England, is hardly them, withstood! One day their spirits, what anywhere to be met with. In spiritual stature truth was in each, will be found working, livthey are almost equal; both great, among the ing in harmony and free union, even here begreatest: yet how unlike in likeness! Hume low. They were the two half-men of their has the widest methodizing, comprehensive time: whoso should combine the intrepid Caneye; Johnson the keenest for perspicacity and dour, and decisive scientific Clearness of minute detail: so had, perhaps chiefly, their Hume, with the Reverence, the Love, and deeducation ordered it. Neither of the two rose vout Humility of Johnson, were the whole into Poetry; yet both to some approximation man of a new time. Till such whole man arthereof: Hume to something of an Epic clear- rive for us, and the distracted time admit of ness and method, as in his delineation of the such, might the heavens but bless poor EngCommonwealth Wars; Johnson to many a land with half-men worthy to tie the shoedeep Lyric tone of plaintiveness, and impetu- latchets of these, resembling these even from ous graceful power, scattered over his fugitive afar! Be both attentively regarded, let the compositions. Both, rather to the general sur- true Effort of both prosper;-and for the preprise, had a certain rugged Humour shining sent, both take our affectionate farewell! through their earnestness: the indication, in
DEATH OF GOETHE.
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE, 1832.]
Is the obituary of these days stands one | A beautiful death; like that of a soldier found article of quite peculiar import; the time, the faithful at his post, and in the cold hand his place, and particulars of which will have to arms still grasped! The Poet's last words are be often repeated, and re-written, and continue a greeting of the new-awakened earth; his in remembrance many centuries: this, namely, last movement is to work at his appointed that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe died at task. Beautiful: what we might call a ClasWeimar, on the 22d March, 1832. It was sic, sacred death; if it were not rather an about eleven in the morning; "he expired," Elijah-translation,-in a chariot, not of fire says the record. "without any apparent suffer- and terror, but of hope and soft vernal suning, having a few minutes previously, called beams! It was at Frankfort on the Mayn, on for paper for the purpose of writing, and ex- the 28th of August, 1749, that this man entered pressed his delight at the arrival of spring." | the world-and now, gently welcoming the
looked forth; unrecognisable to all but the must have clung to a soul of
pher, "is a comTime; in the death nity is seen looking ith such a sublimity here ad heart, it is not unnatural .ew earnestness before and beK, what space in those years and computed Time, this man with his y may influence; what relation to the d of change and mortality, which the arthly name Life, he who is even now called to the Immortals has borne and may bear.
ng Goethe, it is commonly said, made a new his era in Literature; a Poetic era began with ess and him, the end or ulterior tendencies of which appointed are yet nowise generally visible. This com all measure mon saying is a true one, and true with a far and a course deeper meaning than, to the most, it conveys in the whole Were the Poet but a sweet sound and singer, else could we solacing the ear of the idle with pleasant songs, he should be and the new Poet one who could sing his idle, depart, hav- pleasant song, to a new air, we should account was given him to him a small matter, and his performance may say of him small. But this man, it is not unknown to many, other, was like the was a Poet in such a sense as the late genera down. For in- tions have witnessed no other; as it is, in this ra is the eye and re- generation, a kind of distinction to believe in Poetry, so is the the existence of, in the possibility of. The tual sense. Goethe's true Poet is ever, as of old, the Seer; whose e it, is well represented eye has been gifted to discern the godlike myssolar Day. Beautifully tery of God's universe, and decipher some gorgeous in the red new lines of its celestial writing; we can still ing the spectres and sickly call him a Vutes and Seer; for he sees into this which there were enough greatest of secrets "the open secret;" hidden
g benignant in his noon-day things become clear; how the future (both ng triumphant through the up- resting on Eternity) is but another phasis of and now, mark also how he sets! the present; thereby are his words in very : anbetungsvoll! !!! "So dies a So dies a be worshipped." "So di hen the inanimate, material sun disappeared, it will happen that into the still glowing West;
It begins now to be everywhere surmised that the real Force, which in this world all things must obey, is Insight, Spiritual Vision,
Sve se great, pale, motionless clouds, and Determination. Th: Thought is parent
were not, ; of what ," mean; oughts on lated into at imperfect
truth prophetic; what he has spoken shall be done.
ses or curtains, to close the flame- of the Deed, nay, is living soul of it, and last thin; and then, in that death-pause and continual, as well as first mover of it; is the foundation, and beginning, and essence, therefore, of man's whole existence here be
unspeakable feeling will come it is as if the poor sounds of Time,
voices of simple men, had become of man (the uttered thoughts of man) is still
Abammerings of tired Labour on his an- low. In this sense, it has been said, the wond we hear them "mingle with the ever-pealing Do not the winds and waters, and all tumultu2 and supernatural; as if in listening, we a magic formula, whereby he rules the world. es of Life lie opener to us; mysterious A poor, quite mechanieal, Magician speakses of old Eternity." In such moments the ous powers, inanimate and animate, obey him?
fit over the soul; Life itself seems ho-
and fire-winged ships cross the ocean at his